Travelling with a stray dog in South America
When I started my trip in South America a fair 13 months ago, I never imagined ending my journey with a stray dog. Yes, I am an animal lover, but my intention was not to travel and save dogs along the way. The dog that I found though, or actually he found me, is just special.
I was living in Minca, Colombia when this random skinny dog came to say hello. He jumped on top of me, a bit nervous but still enthusiastic. Unfortunately he was scared away by the owner of the hostel where I lived. I just hoped to see this dog again. He looked so skinny. I just wanted to feed him.
A few days later the dog showed back up again. It was nighttime, I was just going to bed so I opened my tent and the dog jumped right in, settled down on my mattress and fell asleep. Not sure what to do I decided to just leave him there. I was aware that the dog might have flees or disgusting diseases but he looked so happy lying there. Next morning he started to follow me everywhere I went. A few days later I moved hostels. The dog didn’t follow me to my new place. He felt comfortable where he was. Scared away from the hostel again I found him back some time later.
Hiking through the beautiful nature of Minca ‘my’ dog followed me all the time. Whenever I sat down to take a rest, he sat down right beside me. Sometimes even on top of me. When other dogs wanted to greet me he became this overprotective macho growling at them. “Go away, this is MY human!” He also started to bark at people, men mainly, that came to close in his opinion. I was grateful for this, he kept scary looking guys at a distance. We lived like this in Minca for half a year. The dog was never allowed in the house I was living in, but he was always there as soon as I went out. The most loyal dog I know.
Then came the time for me to leave Colombia. I thought about finding the dog, by now called Frankie, a new home. When this was unsuccessful I thought about leaving him in the streets. He would not be fed, but he would know how to survive. He was a street dog. Thinking it over and over the idea of leaving Frankie behind made me feel sad. I couldn’t leave him! He was my dog. Leaving him would break his heart. I decided to take him with me.
Having looked up information on the internet ( pettravel dot com is a very useful website), I found out he needed vaccinations against Rabies and an international health certificate to cross borders. This was all very cheap, aprox . $40,- Also, I would need to buy a box for transportation aprox. $ 100) .The first trip I was a bit nervous. Frankie needed to go in his box down in the bus with the luggage. Poor dog. It was a 28 hour bus ride with 3 short stops. He had his food and water bowl in the box and Frankie was just marvelous! After the breaks he would just jump right back in his cage, ready to continue the adventure. Arriving at our first border crossing, again I was a bit nervous. Would his paperwork be ok? Turns out nobody even checked on the dog. I got my exit and entry stamps and just walked from the Colombian side to the Ecuadorian side. Our second border crossing from Ecuador to Peru was the same story. This time I got my stamps then went back in the bus and we just drove into Peru without a problem. Nobody checked the luggage room in the bus. Frankie and I made in to Peru.
The official parts up till now have been easy. The most difficult thing about travelling with a dog are the bus drivers! Most of them are trying to take advantage of you by asking more money for transporting the dog. Once I was about to board a night bus from Quito, Ecuador to San Vicente. It was the only bus that night. The driver came to me and said I needed to pay for the dog. I asked him why, because he was treated as luggage. He would be in the luggage room, not getting any special attention. I told him I wasn’t going to pay. He was charging the same amount as the price of my ticket. For that money it would have been fair to get a seat on board for my dog. The driver took my ticket, gave me my money back and said that I would not be travelling. Like I said, it was the only night bus. I had to go with this bus. Of course the driver knew this and knew I didn’t have any other option but to pay. The driver’s ayudante was really sweet but couldn’t do anything for me. So I ended up paying twice the amount and finally we were on our way.
Usually the drivers just asked for a small amount. Other drivers didn’t ask for any extra money at all. In Huaraz, Peru it was rather difficult to find a bus that would accept a dog. Even in the luggage compartment. Eventually Frankie started to hate travelling by bus. I now have to struggle to get him in his cage. Travelling from Lima to Cusco I decided to fly for the first time. Again a bit nervous, not sure about all the paperwork being ok I went to the airport. I had to pay $1,50 per kilo (dog plus cage), which in Frankie’s case was a total of almost 50 dollars. Instead of a 22 hour bus ride it took a 1hour and 20 minute flight to get to our destination. Again, no trouble whatsoever. For domestic flights in Peru the rules for dog transportation are just not so strict.
I haven’t regretted taking Frankie on my trip to Peru for a moment. It does take a bit of my freedom away, but having such a grateful dog makes up for a lot. Not every hostel accepts a dog, but I haven’t experienced too many trouble finding a place to stay in Peru. I usually just show up and ask if they have a place for me and Frankie. I prefer this over making a reservation over the phone. I have the impression that when people see him, and see that he is clean and friendly I have a greater chance of finding a room. Once Frankie had to stay outside in the hostel’s garden, but most of the times I could get a private room where he was allowed in.
Another challenge is going out for dinner in Peru. Unless you find a restaurant with an outside area you won’t be allowed in. I don’t go out to eat that much, but the times that I did, it wasn’t too hard to find a place that would accept us both. The alternative for me has always been to leave Frankie in my room. He is totally ok with that. He just goes to sleep and waits for me, or keeps himself busy ruining my clothes I learned from this, so now I put my stuff safely away. I make sure the room is Frankie-proof and go out. The same happens when I go out on a tour. Either Frankie waits in the room or he comes with me. He has been with me on a fantastic trip to Laguna 69 in Huaraz, Peru. Of course I first asked permission of the tour agent. They said it was ok to bring him. Apart from some heavy motion sickness during the car ride, Frankie loved the trip. I was afraid he might have altitude problems, but the only one struggling with that was me. Frankie was just happy running around for hours.
Frankie and I are now inseparable. Wherever I go he will come with me. I can’t leave him behind anymore. This former nervous and skinny stray has turned into a well fed, playful, crazy dog. He doesn’t seem to care where we live, in tropical Minca or in the Peruvian highlands, in Cusco, 2400 meters above sea level… as long as he is with me, he is happy.